Local professional musicians are making opera accessible to all.
It’s not every day you hear opera music. But two best friends and professional musicians are working to change that. Local nonprofit musical group, the Overdressed Duo, creates musical experiences that are accessible and enjoyable for all. The duo itself is composed of vocalist Carole Schultz and pianist Elizabeth Chua.
It started as an ongoing joke that they would someday combine their love for over-the-top fashion with opera music. But it wasn’t until the onset of the pandemic when they made this idea a reality.
“COVID-19 happened, and we could either mope around and be unhappy that we don’t have a gig, or we could make the best out of it,” Chua says. “So, we decided to pull out my keyboard and sing in my front yard.” Dubbed their Tiny Lawn series, these concerts take place in Chua’s yard; she lives in the 50th and France neighborhood near Red Cow.
As professional musicians (they both received their doctorates in music performance at the University of Minnesota), Schultz says their mission is a way to make opera music more approachable. “For many, opera is a genre that seems out of reach,” she says. “The audience feels like they must be conesours of the genre to understand it and that is not true. Most of the shows and plot is very similar to any of the other songs you hear about. It is just a different sound, with some poetry.”
Considering a large variety of their music choices are in different languages (like French, Italian, Russian and German), Schultz says, “We like to chat about the songs not only to explain what they are about but to verbalize why we engage with it, why it is fun for us and what we connect with.” This not only helps to create a stronger bond with their listeners, but it also helps to eliminate the performer-audience gap.
Though opera is their central focus, the two also perform a variety of musical theater numbers and familiar tunes to not only appeal to the listeners, but also infuse their own personal taste in music.
Beyond public performances, the duo has also opened offerings to include private events (such as parties and fundraising events). The private event services are open to all, but the most common gigs lately have been at local senior living communities. The duo performs regularly at The Waters on 50th.
“One of my favorite things about the senior living centers is that we get to program what we call our ‘nostalgic music.’ Unchained Melody, La Vie en Rose, Golden Era music[al] theater, a few other jazz standard covers,” Schultz says. “It’s really fun to explore those genres for something different alongside our usual opera classics. Also, [seniors] make the best audiences.”
What makes these events so special is the opportunity to get to know their audiences, Chua says. “We have more flexibility to do that as they ask questions between songs and also after the concerts,” she says. “We see our concerts as more than just entertainment. We love being able to build relationships with our audiences.”
Want to book Overdressed Duo for your holiday party or an upcoming event? Head to overdressedduo.com.